April 14, 2005
Dear Young Men and Women of the Archdiocese of Chicago,
I write to you from Rome during a very important and historic time in the life of our Church in which both you and I are privileged to participate. You are probably aware that this Monday, April 18 th, I will enter into conclave with the other voting members of the College of Cardinals to elect the next Pope, who as successor to the Apostle Peter will lead the Church during the years ahead. This is an awesome and challenging responsibility in which, when I was your age, I never imagined that I would participate.
I am sure that each of you saw some of the extensive media coverage of the death and funeral of Pope John Paul II. Whether by newspaper, television, radio or the Internet, the media made it possible for you to connect with these events to degree that was impossible for any previous generation. I hope that you were also able to see, as I was, the extensive participation of young Catholics like yourselves in these events. Among the people who waited for hours in a very long line to pay their respects to the body of Pope John Paul II, and who slept in sleeping bags on the street so they could be nearby for his funeral Mass, were many groups of youth from all over the world. As they patiently waited they prayed, sang, and carried signs expressing their love for the Holy Father. Their presence here in Rome last week, as well as the expressions of love, respect, and prayer for the Pope offered by youth in the Archdiocese of Chicago and all over the world, helped the world to understand more completely how the lives of people of all ages were touched and changed by the holiness and unprecedented outreach of Pope John Paul II. It was the same spirit of deep and joyful faith that has been seen at each of the World Youth Days the late Pope considered such an important part of his ministry. I know that some of you are preparing to attend World Youth Day this August in Cologne, Germany. The Holy Father recognized this spirit when, during the final hours of his life on earth, he expressed his thanks to the young people who had now come “looking for him,” as he had gone to look for them so often.
Your important role as young Catholics is also vital to the life of the Church during these days leading up to the election of our new Pope. As I and the other Cardinals enter into conclave, trusting in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are still connected with the whole Church through prayer. While I will have no contact with the outside world from the time the conclave begins until after the new Pope is announced to the world, I will never be beyond the power and the support of your prayers. Indeed I am counting on them, and I am deeply grateful to know that you will be praying each day for me, for my brother Cardinals, and for the whole Church. I also thank you in advance for the prayers and Masses you will offer for our new Pope after his election. Together with Catholic youth everywhere, you will help the Church to recall and to trust in the very first words that Pope John Paul II spoke after his election was announced, “Be not afraid.”
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Francis Cardinal George, O. M. I.
Archbishop of Chicago